Going to summer camp has been a beloved tradition for kids for decades. Camps teach kids survival and social skills, foster their independence and help them become healthier all while nurturing a love for the outdoors and providing a fun, safe environment for exploration.
But despite the benefits of summer camps, they aren’t a reality for some families. Camps typically come with a high price tag and time commitment that makes it impossible for some to make it work — and this year, in particular, COVID-19 social distancing guidelines are canceling or postponing this activity.
But luckily, there are options for families who want the camp experience without the commitment. At-home, DIY summer camps are a fun way for families to bring the summer camp experience into their own backyard and let their imagination run wild. Summer camps can be tailored to a family’s budget needs and time constraints all while ensuring kids soak up the many benefits that summer camps offer.
This guide will teach you how to make your own DIY summer camp, including themes, games, and printables to get started.
Step 1: Decide on a Theme
One of the many benefits of a DIY camp is that it can be tailored to your kid’s interests to help them stay more engaged. You can choose to go the traditional log cabin route or mix it up with a unique theme such as storybook, animals, pirates, space or decades.
The typical image of a summer camp is a clear lake, campfire, log cabin and sky full of stars. The traditional theme has worked for many years because it is peaceful, fun and celebrates the beauty of the outdoors. Plus, it’s pretty easy to recreate in your own home! Pitch a tent in your backyard and get ready to make some s’mores as you enjoy the traditional summer camp theme.
Activities for this theme include swimming, building a campfire, telling stories, playing tag, and stargazing.
You can also download this welcome sign and coloring page activity to get your ideas flowing as you begin making your camp.
A Pirate’s Life
Fans of high adventures on the Seven Seas will love this pirate-themed adventure camp. Take your kids on a swashbuckling journey as you bring the fun and mystery of the ocean right into your living room! Complete the theme with bandanas, eyepatches and your very best “ahoy, matey!”
Activities for this theme include: foam sword fights, crab walk races, water balloon fights and a hunt for hidden treasure.
You can also download this welcome sign and maze activity to create the ambiance of the ocean in your living room.
Welcome to the Jungle
This theme works for kids who love exploring and looking at animals. Bring the mystery of the jungle, beauty of the rainforest or energy of a safari into your backyard and celebrate all of the wildlife in the world. Enhance this theme by giving your kids an adventuring hat and compass.
Activities for this theme include: animal walk races, scavenger hunts, face painting and tag.
You can also download this welcome sign and scavenger hunt activity to bring the jungle indoors.
For the kids who love all things Disney or fairytale, this fairytale theme is a great way to bring a storybook to life. Let your kids live out their own adventure as they recreate the stories of independent princesses, brave knights, and magical realms. Complete this theme with tiaras, DIY shields, themed foods, and dancing.
Activities for this theme include a royal relay race, dragon’s egg hunt, a puppet show, and a dance contest.
You can also download this welcome sign and fill-in-the-blank word game to bring the fairytale to life.
Step 2: Schedule activities
Once you’ve decided on your theme and your decor, it’s time to start thinking about activities. There are many ways to bring summer camp home, and the most important thing is to pick ideas that emphasize the summer camp themes of togetherness, exploration, fun and creativity.
Create your own or download a printable itinerary so you can schedule your activities and create a structure for the camp. Make sure you include appropriate meals and rest!
Some ideas for other activities:
- Sunrise walk
- Tell scary stories
- Make slime
- Plant a seedling
- Build a fort
- Watch a themed movie
- Cook a fun meal
- Three-legged races
Step 3: Have Fun
Summer camps — DIY or not — are most about celebrating fun, creativity and the outdoors. Make sure you use your summer camp time to celebrate your family, your kids and your special bond. Then, most important of all, have fun!